The invite had come in the name of Ramesh Chandra Agarwal, the chairman of Bhaskar group of publications. But, unlike most of the proprietors of regional newspapers, Rameshji did not jump at the opportunity to accompany the Prime Minister on his foreign trip.
Instead, he recommended my name —- I had just joined Dainik Bhaskar, DB Post’s sister publication —- and ensured that the invite was re-routed to include me in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s official press party.
When I landed in New York in the fall of 2000 to cover the Prime Minister’s visit to USA, Switzerland and Germany, I was in for a surprise.
The media contingent was teeming with owner-editors of regional newspapers, particularly Hindi newspapers, eager to reap the double benefit of proximity to PM and a subsidised foreign junket.
It was then that I realised the importance of what Rameshji had done.
He was trying to introduce professionalism to the world of regional newspapers. He was bringing in professionals to run his newspapers, giving them freedom to experiment with the product, even if it meant curtailing his own power.
That is no mean sacrifice, as those familiar with regional newspaper world would tell you. He is the man who brought professionalism to the world of Hindi newspapers.